Remember How Hollywood Promised Lots Of New Content If It Could Break Your TV/DVR? Yeah, That's Not Happening…

from the well-that-was-useful dept

With Hollywood getting the right to break your TV and DVR thanks to the FCC’s granting of a waiver to let them use selectable output control to stop DVRs from recording certain movies, the MPAA insisted that this was a huge win for consumers. Why? Because it meant that the Hollywood studios would rush to put movies on TV earlier than ever before. Except… apparently, that’s not actually the case. Despite the victory, no studios have stepped up to make use of the new ability to stop your DVR from recording, because they’re scared about how the movie theaters will react to greater competition. Of course, the theaters are notoriously unwilling to allow any threat of actual competition from home viewership to encroach on their turf, even if it could actually help theaters.

But, uh, the whole argument that supposedly convinced the FCC to give the Hollywood studios this waiver was that they would make use of it to give consumers more access. Quoting from the FCC’s decision:

This offering will allow the homebound, parents with young children, and others who simply want to stay in for the night to choose a new entertainment option that they may value highly….

[On] balance, grant of MPAA’s waiver request will provide a benefit to those who have the appropriate equipment and would like to view movies in their homes in an early release window that outweighs the limited impact on consumers with legacy devices….

So, a large part of the basis of the FCC approval was that it would increase content availability to homes. But that’s not happening. Does that mean the FCC will admit that the entire basis for the approval was wrong?

Oh, and my favorite part is how the MPAA is playing this. Acting MPAA boss Bob Pisano put out the following statement when the FCC’s announcement was made on May 17th:

“This action is an important victory for consumers who will now have far greater access to see recent high definition movies in their homes. And it is a major step forward in the development of new business models by the motion picture industry to respond to growing consumer demand…” (emphasis added)

So, gee, what does Pisano have to say, just a few days later when it turns out that none of that is true?

When asked about the studios’ plans late last week, Bob Pisano, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, said, “I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know.” To comply with antitrust law, he added, “we stay out of business-model decisions.”

Uh huh. So, let me get this straight. He argued — successfully — to the FCC, that granting this waiver to break people’s TVs and DVRs would certainly create new business models and allow much more content to be available earlier. But, when it comes to actually supporting that, he claims that the MPAA “stays out” of business model decisions? So, how could he possibly have promised such “new business models” to the FCC in the first place?

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Comments on “Remember How Hollywood Promised Lots Of New Content If It Could Break Your TV/DVR? Yeah, That's Not Happening…”

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R. Miles (profile) says:

Dear Techdirt,

Given the impact the site has regarding issues of the business world, wouldn’t it be in the best interest to forward a link of this article to the FCC boss?

Let’s see what he has to say, if he even has the courage to come here and address the idiotic decision to allow studios to disable SOC, which is sure to trickle down to TV stations so they can protect movies that had more than a fair amount of time to generate revenues.

Also, can you remove that URL box or combine it with the profiles? I keep mistaking it for the subject line. 😐

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Frak 'em.

Whoops. Need an edit window there.

What needs to happen is a two-way street. You can disable my shit because you want to be able to enforce a window?

OK, but if you don’t take advantage of that window piracy is fair game.

The problem is that there’s no downside on industry. Our legislators have been completely captured.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

As you’ve said a million times Mike, they did not need this exception to break DVRs to show movies earlier. That reason has always been complete BS. The reason they’ve been fighting for this exception (and will continue to fight to enlarge it) is because they’ve hated the Sony v Universal decision from day one.

It took over two and a half decades, but to Hollywood, it was worth it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another reason to cancel service

I canceled my Tivo already, I wish I had not done so until now so that I could express this as the reason to the sales monkey. At the end of this month my cable service ends.

But its a great idea for the MPAA to make a media which makes them a lot of money less useful, prompting more people to make decisions to move on from the outdated distribution systems, resulting in their making less money in the long run.

None of these people in corporate power are capable of thinking more than 3 months out. That is the REAL problem, and it is destroying our country’s industry.

Joel (profile) says:


No content because the movie production companies are scared of the theaters? It should be the other way around since the consumer would decide what is most convenient or better for them, if the theaters decide not to show a movie the production companies could charge more money for it and people could watch it at home…in turn taking business away from the movie theaters.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:


For Pete’s sake, it’s only been a few days since the FCC announcement! Don’t you think it’s just a bit early to be claiming the whole thing’s an utter failure and outright lie?

Not to say I think SOC was a great way to go, but I think academic honesty here requires waiting a wee bit longer to see what actually happens before pointing the finger and screaming, “Liars!”


jsl4980 (profile) says:

Re: Criminy!

I agree, I’m against the concept of SOC, but to claim it’s a failure a few days in is a bit premature. The head of the MPAA can’t comment on how the individual studios will use this new ability. I’m guessing most studios didn’t expect to get SOC granted and probably don’t have any projects in the works yet. Give it a year or two before bashing it.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Criminy!

Hugh and jsl1980,

Your “give it a chance” argument is ridiculous.

If Pisano say:

“[SOC] is a major step forward in the development of new business models…”

one week, and

“we stay out of business-model decisions.”

a week later, why should we wait a year to say the guy is talking out of both sides of his mouth?

When somebody says “I’m a shady, low-life, self-interested, sneaky bastard.” Should I accept the obvious reality, or should I let him in my house and into my A/V equipment, and give it a year or two to see if what actually happens?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Criminy!

The MPAA lobbying campaign said that their members would release content earlier if they could enable SOC. The president of the MPAA later said that he didn’t know about any plans to release content earlier.

So either the lobbying effort was a lie and there never were any plans, or the statement by Pisani is a lie in that he has no knowledge of the plans.

Now if Pisani had said that he didn’t know specifically which movies were planned to be released early, that’s another matter entirely. But he didn’t say that. Therefore, he is lying now or was lying before.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

Re: Re: Criminy!

If the lobbying effort was a lie, then you have nothing to worry about. The FCC rule is fairly limited, and applies only to new-release content within a certain window (90 days?). So, if none of the studios is going to release that sort of offering, then they won’t be able to use SOC. So, what’s your problem?

And the studio campaign made no promises. It was lobbying for opportunities, not making guarantees.


RD says:

Re: Re: Re: Criminy!

“If the lobbying effort was a lie, then you have nothing to worry about. The FCC rule is fairly limited, and applies only to new-release content within a certain window (90 days?). So, if none of the studios is going to release that sort of offering, then they won’t be able to use SOC. So, what’s your problem?”

Are you really that naive? REALLY? Listen, skippy, the SOC is to be enabled in EXCHANGE for EARLIER releases of movies. This is the CARROT they used to get their STICK (SOC). Now that they have it, they are RENEGING on the deal. Get it? Come on now, dont be so foolish.

Now that they have SOC, ALL PPV content, across the board, will be unrecordable. Guaranteed. They will ALSO not release ANYTHING (or very little) in the “early” 90-day window. Also guaranteed. The only question here is, what is the FCC going to do about these LYING FRAUDS who have now gamed the system to get what THEY want while giving NOTHING that they promised?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Criminy!

There is no indication (that I am aware of) that the studios PROMISED they would do ANYTHING. It seems they simply said they certainly would NOT do anything unless this OPPORTUNITY was made available. It isn’t as if there was a contract, though perhaps there should have been.
Besides, before this decision, there were NO PPV movies that were released at the same time as the movie (or within 90 days of it) , so there was nothing to record. After this decision it is the same-nothing to record. I see no big problem YET. This is no worse than we expected, and as long as it doesn’t get worse, it is most likely MANAGEABLE (though certainly not preferable).

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

SOC BS happens, and you choose to get angry at Techdirt???

Are you wearing a “Shoot the messenger” t-shirt?

Let me ask you: what are you doing that adds up to more than Techdirt and Masnick are doing?

“Whining and complaining” is what one does over beer with friends. Starting a popular blog, discussing the issues, and shining light on malfeasance is strong political action. And, yes, pointing people at avenues for action, like the EFF helps too.

And if you think that’s all Techdirt/Masnick does to influence policy, you haven’t been reading.

PRMan (profile) says:


The same thing happened on DirecTV with PPV a while ago. While never a heavy PPV user, I used to buy about 1-2 movies per year when the situation presented itself.

But ever since they started the “we can delete your PPV off your DVR after 24 hours” nonsense, how many PPV movies do you think I have bought?

That’s right, zero. Why would I buy one? We might not finish the movie because something else comes up. Then what? I’m not paying twice to watch a movie once! I will NEVER buy a PPV movie now.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:


You act like you have a right to keep a PPV for as long as you want. Do you demand a ticket to come back if you have to leave the theatre before the movie is done? Do you demand free rental days from the video store because you weren’t able to finish watching the DVD within the original rental period?

I mean, puh-leeze, this righteous indignation seems a little silly.


Valkor says:

Re: Re: PPV

Clearly, I’m naive. I always thought the purpose of ordering a pay per view movie was so you could record it. I never have because I’ve never purchased a new release movie, ummm, ever. I knew people who recorded PPV movies onto VHS tapes. It didn’t even cross my mind that this was in any way different from taping a movie on normal TV.

As for your specious arguments, HuMann, a movie showing is an event hosted by a third party that owns the facility and premises. The tape you get from the rental store is an actual physical object that you are depriving them of in exchange for cash. A PPV movie has been downloaded to a special computer in your home for the express purpose of watching at your own convenience.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: PPV

Well it is pretty well established that a person DID have the right to keep it at least longer than a few days by recording it on…A VCR. Even if a person doesn’t agree with the legality of VCRS, it is pretty clear that we have that right. Now Hollywood wants to change that by blocking VCR/ANALOG. Why are you ok with this?

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: PPV

No, actualy, it is NOT “well established” that PPV is subject to the same fair use home recording ability as provided to regular over-the-air broadcast TV in the Sony Betamax case.

It very well COULD be a similar fair use, but it is NOT “well established”. The courts have not ever ruled on that, and Betamax was actually fairly narrow in its holding.


Nate says:

All I hear anymore is, “Blah blah blah, steal from me, blah blah blah, I don’t need to do honest business with you, blah blah blah.” Why is it that NOWHERE in America will companies do honest business with you anymore?

The value of having cable (beyond internet) was solely in my DVR, and as the value added by that drops more and more, I’m less inclined to keep the service. I give it another year before my wife and I finally axe it.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As long as they tell you what the conditions are (e.g., “This movie may not be output in analong.”), how SOC “dishonest”?

I can certainly see that it may not provide a good deal for some consumers, but I don’t see how that makes it “dishonest”. If you don’t like the terms, don’t buy it.

Of course, if the consumers is NOT informed of the conditions prior to buying, then that’s a different story.


Anonymous Coward says:

By mandating that content auto-expires after 24 hours, rights holders are trying to treat PPV and similar mechanisms like rentals at a video store. Viewing PPV as a rental is not the whole story. Yes PPV substitutes for rentals often now, but that doesn’t mean it should be treated exactly like a rental. One key difference, as posted elsewhere, is the fact that renting a DVD means the redbox/store has one less copy. Permission to view a program on one’s own TV does not mean ANYONE has one fewer copy in inventory. So limiting how long content is available is only a ploy to make a little extra money. When one pays their direct TV/cable bill, they have paid to get access to content, which legally can be Time-shifted for private use. It seems that once a person purchases the right to view a movie, that right should be available until the movie is available to purchase.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Please note that the “V” in PPV is for “view”. Not “record”.

And I agree that it seems it would be a much more consumer-friendly business model to give folks more flexibility in being able to hold on to view-once content. Perhaps if more people voted with their wallet, instead of their ripper, the consumer offering would match up better.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have a DVR that allows me to re-watch Pay-Per-View movies on it.

In the entire five years I’ve had it, I don’t even need hands to count how many times I’ve watched PPV movies a week after I paid for it, because it simply doesn’t happen. In fact, I bought a bigger TV a year ago, and tried to watch “The Green Mile” using this DVR, and well, I shut it off after about 15 minutes in. Instead, I opt’ed to plug in the BluRay so I could watch the Extra Content on the BluRay version I bought. (I have the DVD too)

This talk about SOC and such by the studios is way overblown.

But to understand the gravity of the situation, you need to look at the history of the European Television model. If you recall, Europe is where NewsCorp and Rupert Murdoch got his start.

Those specifically in Crown Countries are required to pay a yearly “TV License” to the Commonwealth which was originally started in the days where Europeans were required to pay a “Radio License” This is not uncommon even to this day. For example, in the UK, a fee of £145.50 (or roughly USD$215) is collected by OfCom for EACH television set. That’s the magic of Sky, or NewsCorp’s model.

Newscorp’s SKY Satellite allowed two things. 1) the ability to individually identify customers and 2) the ability to guarantee revenues to the BBC/Ofcom TV. At the time, it seemed like a winning strategy for a country that was riddled with un-accounted for TV sets that were acquired when people went on holiday and shipped a television home.

Remember, this is why several television broadcast standards exist (PAL, SECAM, and NTSC.)

After several iterations of the technology, SKY and NewsCorp probably became very interested in finding a way to transfer the European satellite subscription model to the US, perhaps with hopes that the US Government would eventually find a way to enact a tax on television. Over several years, the US market didn’t take to it and they realized it wouldn’t work. This may have resulted in the recent NewsCorp divestiture of DirecTV. Chase Carey left the CEO role at US-based DirecTV to become an overnight COO of NewsCorp.

However, based on conversations with people on the other side of the Atlantic, pieces very reminiscent of NewsCorp’s model have started creeping up. SOC is one of them. I wonder who championed SOC, but wouldn’t be surprised if NewsCorp was somehow involved.

The proposed NBC/Comcast merger is also very disheartening because their strategy seems to be on this new delivery model. Should this pass, it would probably create a very interesting marketplace where the US probably won’t be #1 in content creation within a decade… The carrier would of course want to carry the least expensive content with the highest margin. Within a decade, it’s not unreasonable to assume most of this will probably be Indian/Chinese, and come from non-union houses.

Not that this matters because we have a magical printing press when it comes to money!

Idobek (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Those specifically in Crown Countries are required to pay a yearly “TV License” to the Commonwealth which was originally started in the days where Europeans were required to pay a “Radio License” This is not uncommon even to this day. For example, in the UK, a fee of £145.50 (or roughly USD$215) is collected by OfCom for EACH television set. That’s the magic of Sky, or NewsCorp’s model.

Collected by the BBC for the BBC. Some of this “license fee” (a tax in all but name) does go elsewhere but Sky gets nothing. It would in fact be beneficial to Sky (and, I believe, the public) if it were scrapped. OfCom does not collect or enforce TV licenses it is all done by the BBC by “private” prosecution.

Anonymous Coward says:

The more I think about this, the more I feel the FCC may have saved us from a much worse fate. What if SOC had NO time limit. The FCC action is actually pretty reasonable. In an ideal world SOC would not exist, but considering how bad it could have been, it is an acceptable compromise. Perhaps we should get behind it before FCC gives up on listening to our voices and just allows infinite SOC. I am not convinced yet, but it is something I am considering.

Anonymous Coward says:

People miss the point.

SOC for some time window is not really a problem, the real problem is what comes out of that box next.

Because this gives the power to a 3rd party to invade your private space(home) and take over your appliances, it does set the precedence and soon everyone will want to get on that wagon.

What can people do with that power?

They can hold others hostage if they don’t pay up. Suppose you are driving and you bought a license to listen to music only valid for a few blocks inside the city once it is out your GPS enable car will tell the radio receiver to stop playing.

They are shrinking the rights of consumers, invading private property and saying they have the right to do so and some people just accept that.

Anonymous Coward says:

The SOC target probably is the mobile market, with every handset having a GPS one can see the industry trying to sell windows not only in time but in space as well, if the equipment detect it is out it can be turned off.

You are traveling and suddenly your laptop stop playing the movie you were seeing because the plane has passed the border LoL

MadderMak (profile) says:

I wonder… bear with me here…

Sony pulled “OtherOS” reducing functionality of a device after purchase.. hence possibly voiding the contract of sale based on marketing/fitness for purpose. I heard a class action was up…

The MPAA via the FCC just selectively reduced the functionality of my DVR/PVR black-box…. hence etc etc etc.

Should the class action target the MPAA, FCC or the manufacturer *Insert your Brand here* ?

Just a thought 🙂

Mystik says:


Ya know it is funny to watch Tech-Noobs. They run around and have no clue, but pretend to so they can feel smart and can justify a point of view. No reading or research needed cause Tech-Noobs don’t want to bother with that. Oh, wow reminds me of most Senators, Congressman, and Judges.

Here we see Michial Thompson say …

“Hell only a few days??? Why would they announce any plans yet, the hardware hasn’t even been updated to put this into play, and even once it’s updated you still have to have it deployed.”

Okay, A Cable or Sat. Box and a DVR is a computer with an OS. It is not difficult to produce an update that will disable output on non-protected paths. That’s not even 20 lines of code. The older HD Sat. Boxes may represent a larger challenge in getting the update to the consumers device, but in order to collect (yes, in case you don’t know Cable / Sat. cos get a % of PPV revenues) those new revenues the sat. co’s will most certainly get that running in short order. The PPV infrastructure is already there, no update needed!

“little mikee m, you might want to learn how the world really works, not everything is instantaneous.”

I guess you need to “learn” more first! Obvious Tech-Noob is obvious!

I stopped using PPV when they raised the prices and limited the ability to record it. The 24 hour window was used ages ago when VHS was popular. New releases have a longer time from the video store now cause no one liked the 24 hour window.

The point of the 24 hour window is so that you will have to buy it again. As Hugh says “Please note that the “V” in PPV is for “view”. Not “record”.” That’s the trap. What it is missing is the ability to finish watching after that time has expired. If you rented it, you must pay again. Is it fair? Not at all.

As many others have said it is a physical product you deprive someone else of while you watch it. This “created scarcity” is one of the reasons there is a need for a high rental fee. Originally VHS tapes would cost the rental companies $110.00 or more each copy. Hollywood created the high prices and higher scarcity by using this price point. DVD’s changed that whole situation. Now with technology being Digital there is no scarcity to be had.

So why are the PPV prices so high? Some might say to protect the rental companies, but that’s not accurate. Who makes the most off PPV? The studios. The studios don’t care about the rental stores any longer, they have PPV and DVD’s to generate revenue. The rental window is virtually gone. What they care about now is dilution.

If the value of the product gets too diluted it means that no one will buy higher revenue items like BluRays, DVD’s or PPV. This is what RedBox & Netflix did. Netflix’ ‘no 24 hour window’, and the RedBox’ low price point diluted the value of PPV and Discs during the “New Release” window.

What is a window anyways? It is called a window, but it’s not really. It is another helping of cash for the same product. Remember when Tech Support for software was free? When you could return anything you bought within 90 days? When a 1 year warranty covered everything? It is all gone in favor of a new revenue “window”. Greed always begets more greed. Imagine going to the hardware store to buy a chainsaw, but you’re only allowed by the license to cut wood no larger than 3″. They come out with a new license 2 months later to cut 6″ wood for an extra cost. Wait another 4 months before you see a 9″ wood license. How many people are A) going to buy that brand or B) Cut only a 3″ piece of wood with it? It’s virtually the same thing. Paying over and over for the same product.

Make no mistake that you think file-sharing is something new. We shared compressed music over BBS’s long before MP3’s existed. Everyone taped some song(s) off the radio, To say you didn’t is an outright lie. There were VHS tape swap lists, you send your list of VHS tapes in, they list all the ones you can copy yours and swap for. The more they try to fix the price, the more they try to double dip, the more they try to screw the consumer, the more people will push against that. The numbers of people flocking to Netflix, RedBox and P2P and the number ditching cable or sat. TV shows that unhappiness. The easier it becomes to share the more that will be shared until a workable solution is put into place to make people happy.

You can run around all day and say file-sharing is bad, you can try to bash it all day long or try to justify the bonus revenue windows, copyrights life +70 years, NPE patent trolls, and any other like situation. The reality is it is all about maintaining a constant or increasing revenue off the same work or creating news ones from the same work at the expense of the public to the benefit of large corporations, no matter how or what technology changes the status quo. There is never ever no defense for greed!

To others who talk about making a copy of something off HDMI, yes there is a device that converts HDMI > Component and strips HDCP. Which keeps 1080p, then you get a device to allow you to capture component into a computer. That does keep 1080p. So if they release a movie on PPV and limit the outputs it is still possible to have a copy of it.

Back on topic, Mike you missed something in both these stories.

“This offering will allow the homebound, parents with young children, and others who simply want to stay in for the night to choose a new entertainment option that they may value highly….

[On] balance, grant of MPAA’s waiver request will provide a benefit to those who have the appropriate equipment and would like to view movies in their homes in an early release window that outweighs the limited impact on consumers with legacy devices….”

What ‘The Wood’ and FCC puppets are saying is people who are cannot get to the theatre have a way of watching these new movies. How many homebound, parents with children, retirees, and fixed income people can afford a new LCD TV? Ya know how many of those DTV boxes got put into homes? Those are the people they “claim” they want to reach. But those are the ones with the legacy devices in their homes. Its just a ploy to get around it and get it to the people with the cash! Since the economy went sideways not a lot of people can’t afford to get that “New” TV.

It is about the lies and misleading facts that Mike is actually calling them out on. They want full SOC on everything. They have to start somewhere, once people get comfortable and accept SOC here, they will just expand it out more and more. That’s the whole point that you all are missing. Slowly our rights are being taken away by those with a vested interest to keep their pockets full at our expense. Those who let it happen because they believe the lies, misleading facts and bogus stats will realize it all to well in the end. This is *not* about artists, writers, or creators, it is all for and about the people who leech off of them. Where do we stop the line in the sand?


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